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July 26, 2007

Article: Discord Over Dewey

Okay, so it's not every day that I'm quoted in the Wall Street Journal online. They did a piece on the Arizona library that's de-Dewefied, and in the process interviewed several cooler-than-me librarians. Take a look. Even the LOC has taken notice.

Transparency and Failure

This article in today's New York Times really illustrates the value of transparency in today's organizations, especially when it comes to failures.

Just a few years ago, it would have been astonishing for a foundation, particularly one as traditional as Carnegie, to publicize a failure. Today, though, many of the nation’s largest foundations regard disclosing and analyzing their failures as bordering on a moral obligation.

“There’s an increasing recognition among foundation leaders that not to be public about failures is essentially indefensible,” said Phil Buchanan, the executive director of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, which advises foundations. “If something didn’t work, it is incumbent upon you to make sure others don’t make the same mistake.”

Link to Foundations Find Benefits in Facing Up to Failures

July 24, 2007

Use Your Library Often

Use Your Library Often
Originally uploaded by marklarson.

Part of the WPA series of library posters

July 18, 2007

The Open Door Director

Library Journal, 7/15/2007

One foundational Library 2.0 concept is that the library must make itself sufficiently relevant to the local population so that funding and political support remain and grow stronger. This means libraries must act in concert with other nonprofits that use marketing campaigns, lobbying, and grassroots networks to develop long-term, deeply rooted sustenance across different demographics and political strata.

Transparency plays a role in helping library directors achieve these goals by opening the process to everyone. How many times have libraries held closed-door meetings about budget problems, or tried to hide fiscal shortfalls by moving money around so no one would notice? We often think that keeping such things from the public will save us from being “in the news,” but what it really does is keep the public from knowing just how dire our situation might be. We confuse the short-term advantage of avoiding media coverage with long-term success of stable funding and greater outreach to patrons.

Full text


July 14, 2007

Charles Bone 1998-2007

Charles Bone 1998-2007
Originally uploaded by mstephens7.

All my thoughts go out to Michael Stephens who has lost his two best friends, Jake and Charlie, in such a terribly brief period of time.

July 11, 2007

Tivo At the Plate: How to Hit a Grand Slam and Still Strike Out

I recently had a very bad customer service experience with one of my favorite companies, Tivo. I moved and the Tivo in the old house was dying and I wanted to buy one of the new dual-tuner models that I saw on sale as refurbished units. So. I went online and ordered one of the new units for my new house and then began searching online for how to cancel the old and dying unit (the RF input was broken and causing much static).

Well, I immediately realized it would not be easy. Nowhere was “cancel” listed as one of the main options, and only after performing a search and being routed to numerous pages did I find that you cannot cancel online and must phone them directly. My warning radar went up immediately as memories of news stories about American Online began rolling through my head.

After finding the number and calling I was met with one of those amazingly annoying voice recognition systems that wants to ask you fifty question about your “problem”. Well, I just wanted to cancel so I barked “customer service” several times (I was told that that is the trick to bypassing those systems) and, after a bit of a delay, I got a real person.

The call agent was quite nice and even though she asked why I wanted to cancel the old unit she sounded as if she would wrap up the problem in short order. I was wrong. The agent gave me a “cancellation number” that I then had to give to the next person she was going to transfer me to. Uh oh.

Sure enough, this next “agent” was a customer retention specialist, otherwise known as the Gestapo, and she was quite unwilling to have me leave. Finally, after I again had to bark out that I wanted to cancel, she put me on hold while she “retrieved my account” – she had obviously already had it up in front of her but the stalling was part of the game.

So, I waited. And waited. And waited. I counted six minutes having gone by and then I hung up, called my bank, and had my card number changed that was used by Tivo to debit my account – that only took five minutes. I was very, very frustrated.

My frustration was extra deep however because I love my Tivo. It is a wonderful product with a cult-like following but, unlike Apple, Tivo’s customer service is abysmal. It’s also unacceptable. We all expect such juvenile behavior from corporate giants like AOL and Microsoft, but from a niche company like Tivo we expect much, much better. Shame.

So here I sit, watching my new-refurbished dual-tuner Tivo, not willing to ever give it up, but feeling taken and betrayed by the same company whose products I still love. Now though, if a rival comes along that meets my needs, I will be far more willing to jump ship since Tivo has lost my undying allegiance.

How many library customers out there feel the same thing? How many have been burned by one or two bad customer service experiences and now will not vote for a bond initiative or new library tax? How many people still use our services but do so almost reluctantly, willing to switch to a competitor at a moment’s notice?

We must be certain that all of our services, all of our representatives, reflect our core values, our true mission. Tivo fell down and hired some very aggressive, very nasty customer retention specialists and, as a result, may have lost a very, very loyal customer. Let’s make sure our libraries aren’t doing the same to our customers.